Lucy Hughes

Ocean Protector. Product designer and Founder of MarinaTex.

I love the ocean, I live by it, I dive in it, and I want to protect it. Wanting to care for the ocean is also why I founded MarinaTex, where I create biodegradable plastic to help reduce single-use plastic waste.

 

I grew up in Twickenham but I live in Brighton now and have always loved the sea. I’ve been lucky enough to dive all over the world and I know that when you love something, you have to protect it. If I do a few more UK dives, I’ll qualify to be a citizen scientist for a marine conservation charity, where I can do reef surveys and help monitor marine species.

 

I studied product design at the University of Sussex and while I was doing a project for uni, I was led to engineering. I had a bit of an identity crisis at uni. We live in a world where too many things are made and thrown away, and yet my career was supposedly going to be based on creating more products. Fortunately, I had an amazing lecturer who introduced me to the idea of the circular economy and making products out of waste. She put me on track and gave me the tools to create positive products.

 

I started a project  to find value in waste products and this led me to looking at a fish processing plant and the waste produced. Creating something out of a waste product that was compostable and biodegradable felt right. I started experimenting with fish scales and algae and I fell down a rabbit hole learning about proteins. I ended up creating a plastic-like material similar to the plastic found in supermarket bags. I didn’t mean to invent a plastic but combining engineering and product design created a new solution.

 

We know the ocean is suffering from plastic pollution, so it’s great that my engineering is helping to solve this problem. Less plastic will enter the ocean if we move to biodegradable plastic alternatives, and any plastic that does get there, can’t damage the ocean life as it is made from natural marine ingredients.

 

Now I am my own boss which gives a lot of freedom and I can control my routine. I love my office, it’s a community space with lots of start-ups. It means I am surrounded by creative people, innovators and engineers. It gives me hope that there are solutions coming to the problems we see.

 

Engineering is really varied and versatile. It spans so many things, from idea to creation. One day I might be in the lab, experimenting with recipes and testing strength and stretch of a formula, the next day I might be at a workshop or webinar, learning something new. Engineering means you’re always learning.

 

My next step is to make my biodegradable plastic on a large scale. Regular plastic has had a 100-year head start in production, but I know that we need to find solutions to plastic pollution straight away and I am ready.

Where to next?

Find out more about how you can turn what you love into engineering, and what a future in engineering could look like, by exploring the links below. And if you have a question or comment, get in touch, we’d be happy to help!